WASHINGTON – Well over a dozen Democratic senators signed a letter this week warning Israel against unilateral annexation of settlements in the occupied West Bank. The letter, which as of Friday morning had 18 signatories, is addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and warns that annexation could cause severe damage to the U.S.-Israel relationship.
“A deep commitment to Israel’s security and a shared set of democratic values are foundational elements of the close relationship between our countries," read the letter. "We are therefore concerned that unilateral annexation puts both Israel’s security and democracy at risk.”
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It further said that “[a]nnexation would betray our shared democratic values by denying Palestinians’ right to self-determination in a viable, sovereign, independent and contiguous state. It could bring an end to Palestinian security cooperation with Israel, directly threatening the security of the Israeli people, and endanger Israel’s crucial peace agreement with Jordan.
“As friends and supporters of Israel, we caution you against taking unilateral steps that would fray our unique bonds, imperil Israel’s future and place out of reach the prospect of a lasting peace,” the letter continued. “If you move forward with unilateral annexation, we would not support that action.” The continuation of U.S. military aid to Israel was not mentioned in the letter.
The letter did note, however, that “unilateral annexation outside of a negotiated agreement would likely erode the strong support among the American people for the special relationship and diplomatic partnership with the United States that Israel currently enjoys.“ They also said Egypt, another key American ally in the Middle East, has also expressed concern about such a step by Israel.
The writing of the letter was initiated by Senators Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, all Democrats. Other senators who have signed it include Dick Durbin of Illinois, who is the third-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate; Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont; Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; and Democrat Tammy Duckworth from Illinois, a combat veteran who has been mentioned as a potential vice presidential running mate for former Vice President Joe Biden